Increasing food and beverage sales at your restaurant begins before customers arrive, continues when they sit down, and doesn’t stop after they leave. Creating a mix of advertising, public relations and promotions that include social marketing, discounts and in-house upselling will help you maximize your sales.

Use Social Media

Create a social media campaign that keeps you in front of your customers, even when they’re not thinking about eating. Your website should make it easy for customers to find information about your restaurant, including the phone number, driving directions, menu and prices. Create an active Facebook page that provides recipes, trivia questions, suggestions for healthy eating, contests, news about the restaurant and photos of customers. Update your website and Facebook page with each day’s specials and offer to email or tweet your customers when their favorite items are on special.

Create a Brand

Customers have more interest in and loyalty to a restaurant if they feel you focus on their needs. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone, decide on who your core customer will be and focus your efforts on them. For example, if you choose to target upscale adults, recommend wine selections with entrees, serve at least one expensive dish each service even if it’s a loss leader, and don’t offer coupons. If you want to target seniors, create an affordable menu, serve fewer spicy dishes and let your wait staff know not to rush these diners, even when you’re trying to turn tables during a busy service. Sponsor events or charities near and dear to your target customer.

Offer Specials

Add menu items to each service that aren’t always on your menu to entice customers. Offer discounts on one or two regular items each service for people who like a bargain. Include an appetizer, wine and dessert special each service and mandate that your wait staff tell customers about each one. Advertise discounts, buy-one-get-one-free or other promotions to attract new customers or encourage dining during slow periods. Offer a customer loyalty program to regulars, allowing them to give a discount card to a friend or earn a free meal after they’ve purchased a certain number.

Train Your Staff

Turn your servers into salespeople, rather than just order takers. Make sure your staff knows your menu inside and out. Teach them not to wait for customers to order to recommend items and to always make suggestions after they announce specials. Have them list unique ingredients when they describe menu items. Have your chef keep staff up to date on any menu items that sell out so your servers don’t disappoint customers who order them.

Hold Server Contests

There’s a reason national fast-food chains ask, “Would you like fries with that?” It often only takes a suggestion from a server to trigger an impulse buy. Think of the profits you’ll make if each of your servers sell one more appetizer or dessert to only half their tables each evening. Offer a contest to your servers, awarding a cash prize to the servers who sell the most appetizers, desserts and wine, beer or liquor during each service.